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Sink: Legislators are 'twiddling their thumbs' responding to oil disaster

Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink pulled no punches Tuesday as she blasted Florida legislators for being out of touch with Floridians and warned that their inaction on economic relief for Northwest Florida will cost taxpayers  in the long run.

“Our economy needs speed and immediate measures to boost tourism in Northwest Florida or the taxpayers are going to be left with a decades-long bill from businesses that are going bankrupt and residents that may leave and never be able to afford to come back,’’ Sink said.

“Instead of action, the tone deaf Florida Legislature has been twiddling their thumbs. It was only after the governor called for a special session – a special session that I asked for months ago – that some of them started to pay attention,’’ she said. She noted Sen. Don Gaetz’s hearing in Pensacola last week was the first attempt by lawmakers to hear from local government officials, business groups and citizens on the impact the oil disaster was having on the local economy.

“But it seems that many of the legislators are paying attention for the wrong reasons,'' she said. "Today at noon, I expect to see the culmination of the complete failure of the Florida Legislature to be in tune with what’s going on the real world of Florida. In the same chamber, where House Republicans shoved through a proposal in just a few days to open state waters to oil drilling, those same Republicans will stand at their desks to claim they don’t have enough time.

"They don’t have enough time for small business owners in Northwest Florida. They don’t have enough time for the oystermen or the bait tackle shop owner or the countless other working class folks that call Northwest Florida home.’’

Sink, a Democratic candidate for governor, said that for more than a month she has been calling for incentives “that only the Florida Legislature can enact” and when the House speaker and Senate president hadn’t filed any legislation to help them, she wrote them a letter calling for changes to streamline and speed up the claims process and provide economic relief.

“No surprise it hasn’t been answered,’’ she said. She then introduced Jeff Elbert, a souvenir shop owner and president of the Pensacola Beach Chamber of Commerce. Elbert "will not see any relief'' today from legislators even though he has filed a claim with BP for his losses in May, was told he will be paid, but still hasn't seen a penny. Sink thinks legislators should pass a law that requires BP to be given a 15-day deadline to respond to claims requests.